Call for flood insurance to be made 'affordable to all'
A Government deal to provide insurance to properties in danger of flooding is "nonsense" as small businesses and new-build homes are not covered, a Westcountry MP has warned.
Stephen Gilbert, Liberal Democrat MP for St Austell and Newquay, fears many houses and premises will be "left behind" and still unable to afford cover.
The Westcountry peninsula is vulnerable to flooding due to its long coastlines and steep valleys, underlined by brutal flash floods, infamously in Boscastle, North Cornwall, but also throughout the region in recent years.
The new insurance scheme – known as Flood Re – was unveiled in the summer after protracted negotiations between the insurance industry and the Government.
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It caps flood insurance premiums, so a householder in the average band D property will pay no more than an estimated £800.
In turn, all householders with insurance will continue to pay a £10.50 levy into a fund to be used to pay claims for people at a high risk of flooding.
But it has emerged the agreement excludes any properties built after 2009, as well as all private firms – including small "domestic" businesses such as bed and breakfasts – and any property in the most expensive council tax band.
Ministers say the exclusion of new-build properties is supposed to discourage developers from building on flood plains. Mr Gilbert, also a ministerial aide to Energy Secretary Ed Davey, has said he may try to force changes to the scheme when the Water Bill comes before Parliament later this year, to ensure insurance is "available and affordable to all".
"It is clearly a nonsense to suggest that homes built since 2009 won't be covered," he said at an event last month.
He added the Government's approach risks "pulling up the ladder" on people who buy new homes only to find the changing climate leaves them exposed further down the line.
"We know there has been some inappropriate development in flood risk areas – but what we also know is because of climate change there isn't an area of the country that isn't a potential flood risk area," he said. "We are going into a world where climate change makes many, many more homes open to flood risk.
"Flash flooding, atmosphere warming, more water held in the atmosphere – (it is) completely unpredictable about where it may fall down."
A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: "We have always been clear that developers should avoid building in high-risk flood areas.
"Properties built after 2009 ideally should not be built in high-risk areas and would therefore be insurable at affordable prices."